Category Archives: Movies

Saturday afternoon in the Mid90s

87E28138-3758-4362-9FF0-8C7E97655496For pretty much the first time in this century, I’m not working two jobs and weekends really feel different. Saturdays sure do change when one doesn’t have to be at work at four or five in the afternoon and I’ve spent recent Saturdays swapping seasons in my closet, raking out my front garden, changing drapes, and generally puttering around my house – oh! And going to the movies.

Last week was A Star is Born and yesterday was the new Jonah Hill directed film Mid90s.  Unlike last week’s flick, this week’s came with an unfamiliar story and a cast unknown to me. I had seen the trailer once, or maybe twice, and had been interested. Maybe it was my “boy mom” tendencies kicking in or something. Whatever the reason for the movie’s appeal, middle son and I went to the Spectrum for an early matinee and, following the showing, both walked out pleased with what we had experienced.

The semi-autobiographical film tells the story of Stevie, his difficult to witness relationship with his brother, and how far he is willing to go to be part of a group which will provide him with a sense of belonging not present in his home. Stevie, later dubbed “Sunburn,” seems to be seeking someone whom he can freely admire and look up to, unlike his wildly violent brother or his mother who can not seem understand, much less create, the appropriate boundaries between mother and child. I guess you could say a family.

The awkwardness of Stevie as he begins interacting with a close-knit crew of skateboarders is cringe-y and reads to this middle school teacher as completely believable. Stevie is about the age of my own youngest son, (whom I sincerely hope is years away from the types of experiences in which we see Stevie partake), and his willingness to swallow everything he sees, hears, and eventually, is offered, is difficult to watch at times.  

G, my most fashion aware and obsessed son, was impressed with the on point cultural references and style of the film. The magazines, music, wardrobe and language was spot on for the era. The scenes of physical violence, sexual explorations, and drug and alcohol experimentation were particularly challenging for me to sit through, but I’m glad I did if only to get to this piece of dialogue spoken by Na-Kel Smith’s character, Ray, to Stevie:

‘You take the hardest hits out of anyone I know. You know you don’t have to do that, right?’ 

Stevie and Ray

There had been a couple of moments during the movie that had already made me gasp, but those particular lines also caused my eyes to immediately fill with tears. Wow. If that message could only be directly delivered and received by people who believe that the hard way is the only way, our world would be a much more kind and gentle place to live.

Have you seen Mid90s? I’ve heard some really negative impressions of the film and am interested to hear what other people may have thought. Please share your thoughts and perspective with a comment.

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Filed under Boys, DelSo, moms, Movies, Observations, Recommendations

A Star is Born – in two takes

2573C958-C5A5-4FC8-9295-F9C63732A587The media blitz worked.  I needed to see the Bradley Cooper version of A Star is Born and I planned to make a Saturday matinee. But first, I needed to see the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Hello, Friday night and Amazon Prime.

I was 10 when that version was released and I don’t recall seeing it, although the song, “Evergreen,” certainly landed on my radar. That particular song, along with “The Way We Were,” was one of the first songs I remember crying to during the those overly emotional pre-puberty days. More than forty years later, it remains a tragic romance tour de force and I loved hearing it as part of the soundtrack. To be honest, it was the only song I found listenable in the entire film. The rest was just awful – and while Kris Kristofferson may have been  a delight to look at, his voice was just terrible. 

Back to the positive…Barbra Streisand’s wardrobe was totally on point and I loved everything about her appearance. Many of her outfits were extremely low cut, but there was no silicone spillage and she just looked great. That cream colored sweater she wore at the first concert is my current obsession and I’m requesting any and all assistance in landing one just like it for my own wardrobe. Get on it, please.

So, you could say that I wasn’t really too impressed.

On Saturday I settled into my seat at the Spectrum for the early showing of the latest remake.  An aside – if it’s not playing at that particular theater, I’m not going.  The opening scene with Bradley Cooper shredding his guitar to a song that I wouldn’t mind hearing again, immediately grabbed me. It took me twenty minutes or so to realize that I was physically on the edge of my seat trying to get closer to the action on the screen. He was absolutely compelling and, basely, totally friggin’ hot. Oh – and he can sing!

When Lady Gaga hit the screen, I was delighted, and the first time I heard her sing I was completely blown away. La Vie en Rose is one of my favorite overwrought ballads and her performance was magic. I loved her look and found her completely believable and genuine. Wow.

So, the movie was a little long with some extraneous character development, but since it meant more time in the dark with Bradley and Gaga, it wasn’t a problem for me. The music was really terrific with songs I can actually imagine purchasing and adding to my Apple library. The performances were sincere and  totally believable and I absolutely loved this film. 

Guess I need to check out the Judy Garland version. How about you? Have you seen any/all of the Star is Born movies? What’s your favorite?

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Miss(ing) Amy Winehouse

Earlier in the summer, this video came across my Facebook wall and ignited my current obsession with Amy Winehouse. I’ve loved Amy since one of my favorite students (DC) turned me on to her about 10 years ago, but I guess it was time for me to dive a little deeper into her music.

So, over the weekend I watched “Amy” on Amazon Prime. I’m sure all the cool kids watched the movie when it came out in 2015, but it was new to me and I really gained insight into what a tortured genius she was. The movie used family photos, videos and interviews to provide a portrait of a young woman with huge talent, but even larger issues. I hadn’t realized she had written so much of her own music and learning the stories behind the lyrics gave me new perspective on her life. Watching her perform was absolutely mesmerizing and despite knowing what the ultimate outcome would be, I just kept waiting for someone to save her. So tragic.

With my now full blown infatuation, I’ve been exploring what Amy Winehouse music is available on the various streaming services. I’ve committed to a few months of Apple Music, (because I find their playlists to sometimes be pretty interesting) and I’ve been listening to a few built around the song Valerie. The winner I came up with for today was titled “Lana Del Rey: Influences” and the artists Apple Music tied together was surprisingly awesome. In addition to Amy Winehouse, there are songs by Janis Joplin, Portishead, Lou Reed, The Doors and Billie Holiday featured. And somehow, they all just work together in a fantastic way.  Good stuff – check it out.

Who are you missing these days? What performer/musician would you most like to see reincarnated?

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BlacKKKlansman

Eight or ten years ago my former husband and I celebrated an anniversary on Martha’s Vineyard. I think it was Labor Day weekend and, to kill time before our ferry departure, we squeezed into the Black Dog Cafe in Vineyard Haven for a final indulgent breakfast. After we were seated, I noticed the father and son seated next to us and realized pretty quickly (confirmed by the Yankees cap) that it was indeed, Spike Lee and presumably his pre-teen son.

The conversation at their table had been lively and Spike looked a little exasperated, but even more amused. He and I made as much eye contact as was possible in our tinted glasses, and smiled at one another before exchanging a few words:

“Why do we teach them to speak?
They never stop talking!”

…and then we laughed.

It was pleasant and illustrated to me how he and I are much more alike than we are different. We’re both parents and we spend time teaching our children how (not what) to think and behave and communicate. It was a perfect encounter with a cultural icon.

If we’re incredibly lucky, we raise children who can communicate like Spike Lee. His ability to depict with film a reality with which many people are unfamiliar, is remarkable. In his most recent release, BlackkKlansman, he strings together images from Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, and 2017’s tragic white supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA, with the true story of Colorado Spring’s first black police officer, Ron Stallworth, to make his case that overt racism is the American way. We’ve been perfecting it for generations.

I went to the movie with my generally aware 13 y/o, yet repeatedly found myself elbowing him to explain historical references such as a mention of Branch Rickey or the blaxploitation scenes, both subjects with which he was unfamiliar. When it came to the closing scenes of the violence which was perpetrated in Charlottesville last year, it was my turn to be unfamiliar – somehow I had avoided ever seeing that footage. I left the theater in tears.

If you haven’t yet seen BlackKKlansman – go.

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Rome in films

I don’t think I’ve ever been so prepared for a trip before. I’ve been basically packed and ready for almost a week already and I’m actually looking forward to Penn Station because it gets me more near to Newark Airport which makes me that much closer to Rome…

Since time seems to moving at a pace which will surely be acceptable when I’m in Rome, but which I find to be excruciatingly slow while waiting for that to happen, I’ve spent the weekend watching films that are set in Rome. First up was the biggest disappointment – The Da Vinci Code. Truth be told, I saw this movie years ago and I was being way too optimistic to believe that focusing on the scenes set in Rome would be enough to salvage what is essentially a terribly cast adaptation of a book I enjoyed. Lesson learned. Next.

A Special Daya Carlo Ponti film starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni rocked my world with its incredible performances, camera angles and emotion. The Roman background was overshadowed by the wrenching story told, but I am so glad this movie came into my life. The scene on the rooftop with the laundry left me breathless. Thank you, Google search, for such a great find.

The final movie, Eat, Pray, Love was also a repeat for me, yet unlike Da Vinci Code this one did actually offer more for me the second time around. Somehow I had completely forgotten all of the preliminary action which occurred prior to Elizabeth Gilbert’s arrival in Rome, but that’s one of the funny things about revisiting a book or movie, isn’t it? What you take away is directly related to what you bring and that changes as life changes. What most excited me last night while watching this movie was the sense of injesting Rome – the pasta, the gelato, the scenery, the people, the language… I’m hungry and ready.

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Crying with a “purpose” and laughing when “life is beautiful”

9FFEF99C-3B5B-4088-8289-19E0167F6853A Dog’s Purpose” crushed me. I knew it was a bad idea to watch this movie, yet cuddled on the couch with my boy, I thought I’d make it through ok. I didn’t. It’s probably time for me to accept the fact that I can’t tolerate watching animals or humans, particularly children, being mistreated and dying. It guts me. It probably started with “Old Yeller,” a classic book turned movie that ended, for me, with a horrific gunshot. I understand that the movie actually ends with a new puppy and some happiness, but, by the time that final scene occurred, I was already in my room crying into my pillow.

How Jeter and I slept after watching “A Dog’s Purpose.”

After watching “A Dog’s Purpose, “Old Yeller” seems almost  cloyingly sweet. You see, unlike the dog in the more recent movie, Old Yeller mercifully only had to die once. The only thing worse for me than watching the same dog die multiple times is my newfound and overwhelming feeling that Jeter is narrating our life together. Thanks to that damn movie I keep wondering if my dog is sharing his thoughts and experiences like Bailey did. If he is, I hope that it’s a good story he’s telling.

Speaking of good stories, the Italian film “Life is Beautiful” is one that will remain with you long after the final credits role. Although the movie is more than 20 years old, the impact of the story and the performances remains vivid and I strongly encourage you to watch it whether it’s your first time or your tenth. Humor and the holocaust don’t go together in a single sentence often, but this film manages to combine the two into a tour de force that touched me deeply.

If you’re not familiar with “Life is Beautiful” the movie, set in Italy during WW II, tells the story of a Jewish waiter, Guido, who works to hide the reality of concentration camp life to his young son by presenting their situation as a game they must try to win. His commitment to making the best of their circumstances to protect his child and assure his wife of their well being is inspiring. The depth of love he exhibits for his wife and child in many ways transcends the horrors of their circumstances and managed to lift my heart despite the film’s inherent sadness. I need to watch this movie more frequently. It is simply beautiful – watch it with your family over the holidays.

Have you seen either (or both) of these movies? What movie makes you cry?

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Time is short

I’ve been so busy doing things and going places that I haven’t had a moment to chronicle any of it. It’s kind of getting me frustrated, but that’s how I typically react to not having what I want – in this case more time. I’ve made some notes and I swear I’m going to carve out some time over Thanksgiving break (See what I did there? Carve??) to share things that I’ve seen (an 80s band, some television and a couple of movies), a couple of books that I’ve recently read, some delicious things I’ve enjoyed eating and drinking, a week focused on health maintenance, and a couple of Albany experiences that I was lucky enough to take in. Stay tuned.

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